Sunday, October 25, 2015

Friday Letters-Student Self Reflections

Today's #sunchat on Twitter inspired me to do a blog post explaining my Friday Letters, my students' weekly reflections.

A couple summers ago, post TMC, I remember seeing people tweeting about the idea of Friday Letters.  I think the teacher had her students write her a letter every Friday about different topics.  That is about all I remember, but I have wanted to do that with my students ever since.

Fast forward a year or two and last Spring when I piloted using Google Classroom with my Honors Math 7 class, I had them do Friday Letters for just the last few weeks of schools.  I wanted to try it out on a small scale (and do the Friday Letters digitally on a running google doc) to see how to manage the workflow.

This year I knew I wanted to start the Friday Letters right away and establish it in a meaningful way for student self reflection.  I had not yet chosen my PPG (Professional Practice Goal) at the beginning of the school year when I started Friday Letters, but was very happy to realize they would end up being a key component of my PPG. In WI part of Educator Effectiveness (how we are evaluated as teachers) involved writing a PPG.

I've copied and pasted a portion of my PPG below so you can see how the Friday Letters are used to assess student understanding of math concepts, as well as, to uncover misconceptions.

Identify related Danielson Framework for Teaching domain/component(s):
Educator:       3d Using Assessment in Instruction
Focusing on:  Taking the pulse of the class by monitoring student understanding and using strategies to elicit that information.

Evaluator comments:       

Describe applicable instructional or non-instructional activities:
Using formative data to drive my classroom instruction:
  • Daily warm ups
  • Check ins during collaborative group work time
  • Students self correct homework via google classroom
  • Homework assignment questions/discussions posed by students
  • Exit slips
  • Formative assessments
  • Friday Letters- student self reflection on learning

I will provide individual feedback to students through their Friday letters and pull small groups based on any misconceptions I discover.  Students will use Google Classroom to correct their own assignments.  This allows them to assess their own work. I check in with students every day to make sure assignment are completed and that I answer any question for clarification.  Students may be pulled in small groups or individually based on this formative feedback.  Students are required to fill out a google form if they plan to reassess any standard,  This form requires students to reflect on their study habits and areas of difficulty.  They also decide on when they will reassess and what they need for me before reassessing.

Students write their Friday Letter reflections every Friday.  I usually provide a prompt and they respond to the given prompt in the format of a letter to me.  When I want to comment back to a student I highlight the date of the letter and then comment from there.  This is an easy way to comment back to the entire letter instead of highlighting bits and pieces and responding that way.  I have about 120 students and the commenting back to them is the hardest thing to manage.  I spent over 2 hours commenting back to every student in just one of my four classes.  Students know that I do not comment back every week.  They do love to ask me questions and sometimes my comment will spark a side conversation with them.

As I read through their letters I jot down notes of things I need to clarify or really focus on due to misconceptions that I see.  This may be something I address with all my students, just one class, or I may pull small groups, or even conference with a student individually.  It depends on what I'm seeing in the Friday letters that week.  I'm also really trying to give them ownership of their learning and assessment, by having them self assess understanding and reflect on their own learning.

I've talked about the whys of the Friday Letters, now onto the hows.  I set up a google doc Friday Letter template that I shared with students in Google Classroom.  Each student made a copy of the Friday Letter template and then bookmarked it in their math folder.  That way every week they just go to their math folder and click on the link to their Friday letter.

 This shows you what a student's Friday letter document looks like.  That formatting box at the top always stays.  Every Friday students write the new letter at the top of the doc, right under the Friday letter formatting box.  Students sign their names to each Friday letter, even though you don't see that here.

When I want to comment on a Friday letter I highlight the date of the letter (or the most recent dated letter if I want to give comments about more than one letter).  I type in my comments and they show up to the student as you see below.  Very important...tell students to NOT RESOLVE the comments you make, otherwise you will get an email that the comment was resolved.  I've told my students that if they want to respond to my comment, just add it to their next Friday letter.  The comments stay next to the letter so it won't clutter things up.

Most of the prompts I give students are designed for them to reflect on their learning that week and so I can see where they are at in their understanding of the math concepts. I'm also trying to get them to be more self reflective so they can see the impact of their own actions on their learning.

Some topics we've covered:

  • Introduce yourself to me
  • Tell me what you understand about ratios, rates, and proportions
  • What is the difference between discrete and continuous data?
  • Tell me everything you know about direct variation
  • Give me feedback and suggestions on math workshop: opener, mini lesson, group work time, sharing and reflection, small group lessons/individual conferences
  • How does homework help you learn?
  • How do you prepare for assessments so you are able to demonstrate your understanding of the math content and skills?
I'm really enjoying reading students Friday letters.  Not only am I getting a very clear picture on where students are regarding the math content, but I am finding out what their likes and dislikes are and how they spend their time out of school.  I feel like I am getting to know students much better on a personal level thanks to the Friday Letters.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Currently October 2015

I am linking up with Farley for her October currently.  I'm shocked/not shocked that I haven't blogged since August.  It's pretty typical for me to get caught up in back to school and put my blog on the back burner.

Listening:  My husband woke up and turned on Sports Center.  It's on way too much in this house where I live with 4 guys!

Loving:  I love everything about October, the leaves changing colors, the crisp cold fall air, everything pumpkin related, fall candle scents, I could go on and on!

Thinking:  We have passed the one mark month at school.  Things are going great.  I have wonderful students, but this is a large class.  Last year I had 21 students in Honors math and this year I have 33.  Things are very crowded in my small classroom.  Students are doing awesome with math workshop and we've already had our first summative assessment with great results.  I'm using Google Classroom with all my classes and I completely love it.  So many great things going on at school I need to start blogging about it!

Wanting:  I want to spend more time relaxing and recharging this weekend.  Last weekend was crazy and I think I was only home for about 2 hours until Sunday night at nearly 8 PM.  I went to 3 fall BB games and a LAX game.  With 3 boys playing 3 different sports on 5 different teams this fall my weekends are CRAZY. Basketball will be starting soon for my youngest. Yes, sometimes I do feel like I might lose my mind.  I do love watching football and LAX, but I could most definitely do without the fall BB!

Needing:  I feel like I'm exhausted every single night after school.  I try to leave on time (3:30) but I rarely get out of there before 4:30-5:30.  Thankfully my husband has been cooking dinner or we just might starve.  Many nights I fall asleep while watching TV.  I need to start working out so I have more energy.  Also need to do some menu planning on the weekend.  This week was tough because last weekend was just too busy and I didn't get all my household stuff done.  This Monday I have to afternoon off because I have to take my younger two for their yearly check ups so I should feel less stressed next week.

Boo-tiful:  Fall colors are my favorite.  The leaves have started turning!